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Cardiac Arrhythmia: Symptoms and Solutions

Cardiac arrhythmia is another way of saying that a patient's heartbeat is irregular, too slow, or too fast. An arrhythmia can be a chronic or temporary condition, and its seriousness can range from harmless to life-threatening. If you notice anything irregular about your heart, you should see a doctor right away to determine whether further action or attention is needed.

Not all cardiac arrhythmias will present noticeable symptoms. This is why regular check-ups with a physician are necessary to catch problems that may need medical intervention. Some patients will notice certain signs of an arrhythmia. See a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • An unexplained racing heartbeat
  • A noticeably slower heartbeat
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Chest pains or discomfort
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or fainting

Any time you suspect a problem with your heart, you should seek immediate medical attention.  Don't wait until your regular doctor's office hours; head straight to an emergency room or certified chest pain center.

Treatment will vary depending on the seriousness and type of arrhythmia your doctor discovers. Some cardiac arrhythmias require no treatment at all, and some only need regular observation. If your arrhythmia does need treatment, you will have many options.

Fast or irregular heartbeats are often caused by an underlying condition, and they will return to normal once the condition has been treated or cured. If no underlying condition is found, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments ranging from medications to surgical procedures. Slow heartbeats should usually be corrected by a pacemaker that monitors your heart beat and intervenes if it gets too slow or stops altogether.

Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes to treat cardiac arrhythmias, such as adopting a healthier diet, maintaining a consistent fitness routine, learning stress management techniques, or cutting back on harmful habits such as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or caffeine addiction.

Learn more about cardiac arrhythmia by attending a free lecture on Tuesday, April 3, with speaker Dr. Sergoi Cossu. Reserve your spot by calling (941) 624-4441. We'll meet at the HCA Center at Promenades Mall in Port Charlotte at 5:30 pm.

If you have any questions about cardiac arrhythmias or heart health, call our free Consult-A-Nurse® service at 1-877-442-2362. We can also provide a physician referral.

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Do You Have a Sleep Disorder?

Whether you are up all night or sleepy all day, disruptions to a healthy sleep pattern can leave you feeling miserable and useless. Most adults occasionally experience a sleepless night when they're stressed, or a drowsy day when all they want is a nap – but when do these experiences cross over from normal to a sleep disorder? If your battles with sleep are chronic, or your daily life is disrupted by never-ending fatigue, you might need to seek the opinion of a doctor.

According to HelpGuide.org, insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. Patients with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, even when they report feeling tired. When they do fall asleep, they are easily awoken throughout the night and they will struggle to return to sleep. If you experience sleepless nights on a regular basis, you might have insomnia. This disorder is often the symptom of a behavioral health issue, such as depression, anxiety, or stress. It can also be caused by certain medications, diets, or a sedentary lifestyle.

Sleep Apnea
Another common disorder is sleep apnea, which occurs when the patient's breathing temporarily stops while he sleeps because of an upper airway blockage. Sleep apnea often wakes up the patient several times throughout the night, leaving him feeling groggy and lethargic in the morning. Most of the time people with sleep apnea do not remember waking up and do not understand why they never feel rested. If you are always tired, even when you've had at least eight hours of sleep, you may have sleep apnea. This is a serious condition, and it can become life threatening if ignored. See your doctor to receive a diagnosis and get proper treatment.

Other Disorders and Sleep Obstacles
Some disorders may not directly relate to sleep, but they can still disrupt a normal sleep pattern. Restless leg syndrome often makes falling asleep impossible, as the patient has an irresistible urge to move his legs whenever he is lying down. Physical pain from injuries or sickness can also interfere with a healthy sleep schedule.

Sometimes sleep problems can occur because of your exterior environment. If you're experiencing jet lag, or you have an irregular work schedule that includes both day and night shifts, you may find sleeping difficult while your body tries to adjust to a new rhythm.

If you are struggling with sleep apnea, please join our support group, A.W.A.K.E. at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Our members provide each other with the encouragement and assistance needed for sleep apnea patients to become "Alert, Well, And Keeping Energetic." For more information or to register for the group, call 727-341-4055.

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What You Should Know about Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America, according to the American Cancer Society. Over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer have been diagnosed in the last year, and one in 20 people will get colon cancer at some point as they age. Learning how to prevent cancer and getting regular screenings could save your life. Since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, this is a good time to start.


Most patients are recommended to start screenings for colon cancer once they reach 50 years of age, but your doctor might suggest an earlier start date if you are at a high risk. Screenings are important because patients rarely notice symptoms of colon cancer in its earliest stages, and most colon cancers begin as benign polyps with no warning signs. To avoid the late, dangerous stages of cancer, screenings must occur regularly.

There are many types of screenings for colon cancer. Your doctor will help you determine which type is best for you and a recommended frequency based on your risk factor. Some tests he might recommend include fecal occult blood testing, a colonoscopy, a sigmoidscopy, or stool DNA testing.

Risk Factors

Some people are at higher risk for colon cancer than others. Some risk factors are habits that can be changed, but others cannot be helped, such as age, race, or personal and family medical history. To decrease your chances of cancer, make these lifestyle changes:

  • Increase your fiber intake.
  • Avoid fatty foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your body type.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Don't drink excessively.
  • Avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.

Symptoms to Look For

If you start noticing any of the following warning signs, make sure to tell your doctor:

  • Bloody stools
  • Black stool
  • Unexplained changes in your bowel movements
  • Unexplained rectal bleeding
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sudden weight loss

Need more information? The hospitals of HCA West Florida can help. We have oncology departments that are well equipped with expert staff and the latest technologies designed to diagnose and treat cancer if it surfaces. To learn more or receive a physician referral, call our Consult-A-Nurse® service at 1-877-442-2362.

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How You Can Benefit from Tai Chi and Yoga

In recent years, the Eastern practices of yoga and tai chi have become increasingly popular in Western cultures. Yoga and tai chi both focus on movements that transition from one position to the next. Tai chi postures do not pause, but move fluidly from one position to another. Yoga focuses on filling the body with positive energy during brief periods of stillness, though some intense versions move quite quickly. Both practices also work to align the bones, heart, muscles and mind with positive energy.  

Multiple Health Benefits
Though these two practices have different components, yoga and tai chi do have some similar health benefits. Similarities include:

  • Use of controlled breathing 
  • Relief of pain
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Better quality of life for cancer and heart-disease patients
  • Calming effects of meditation

Although the differences in yoga and tai chi are profound, they allow practitioners of both to gain a wide variety of health benefits.  Among them are these:

  • Tai chi may improve symptoms of arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, while regular practice of  yoga may reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Yoga can strengthen the core muscles, which provides for better spine health.
  • Tai chi improves balance while moving and can reduce the risk of falling in senior citizens.
  •  Yoga improves balance while standing still. It helps practitioners distribute weight evenly and improve stability.

Start Your Practice Today!
It’s never too late to begin practicing yoga or tai chi. Find a class that suits you – for more information on yoga or tai chi classes offered at Englewood Community Hospital, call (941) 475-6571 or view the online schedule.


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The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the most complete source of nutrition and vitamins for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding your baby exclusively for at least the first six months, although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial. 

According to Babycenter.com, breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both baby and mother, including:

Protects against Illness
Many studies have shown that breastfed babies suffer from fewer respiratory illnesses, stomach viruses, ear infections, and cases of meningitis. When babies do get sick, they experience fewer symptoms and the duration of the illness is shorter.

Helps Prevent Allergic Reactions
It has been documented that babies who drink formula based on cow’s milk or soy have more allergies to food than breastfed babies. Scientists believe immune factors like lgA, which is only found in breast milk, helps prevent food allergies. This factor provides a layer of protection within the baby’s intestinal tract.

May Lower SIDS Risk
There is no known cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests breastfeeding to reduce the risk of SIDS. Additionally, a German study published in 2009 found that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of SIDS. A little goes a long way; research concluded that one-month-old babies who had been exclusively breastfed had their risk of SIDS cut in half.

Reduces Stress and PPD in Mothers
Breastfeeding triggers the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes nurturing and relaxation. Additionally, more than 9,000 studies have been reviewed by The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH concluded that women who did not breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding before the baby was six months old had an increased risk of postpartum depression.

May Prevent Childhood Obesity
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who are breastfed are at less risk for becoming overweight or obese.  Other findings conclude that breastfed babies have the tendency to eat until their hunger is satisfied (and not overeat) and have more leptin in their system – a hormone might play a role in regulating appetite and fat. 

Want to learn more? Talk to your doctor about how breastfeeding can benefit you and your baby. Also, St. Petersburg General Hospital provides comprehensive breastfeeding classes for you. Classes are taught on-site by Women's Services staff nurses. Please call (888) 741-5122 to register.


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Preparing for the Birth of Your Baby

One of the most special times in a parent's life is preparing for the birth of a child. While it’s not possible to be 100% ready for parenthood, there are many steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared as much as possible for your baby's birthday.

According to Babycenter.com, the following five tips are some of the best ways to get ready for the baby’s arrival:

1.       Get Educated about the Birth Process
Whether you take birth classes, watch videos, read books or do online research, educating yourself about the actual birth process is a great way to start your journey. The more you know about what is happening inside you (or your partner), the better the experience. From the different stages of labor to pain-management options, knowing what to expect before you begin is very beneficial.

2.       Communicate with your Partner 
Keep the lines of communication open with your partner. Discuss everything from expectations during the pregnancy, all the way through the newborn stage. Make sure you’re on the same page about baby responsibilities, household duties, and whether or not you’ll breastfeed. Discussing and dealing with concerns before the baby arrives is helps curtail post-birth surprises.

3.       Talk to Veteran Parents
Sure, baby books and videos typically discuss the clinical side of childbirth. But make sure to get the real scoop about what it’s like to have a baby from other parents who have walked the walk. Ask about the physical changes that take place for women, and find out if any clichés you’ve heard are actually true.

4.       Decide Who Will Attend
Everyone might be eagerly anticipating the birth of your baby, but not everyone can attend. Hospitals put a cap on the number of visitors who are allowed in the delivery room. If there are too many people clamoring for an invite, simply say only the birth mother and father will be in the delivery room. That way, you won’t worry about excluding anyone – you can focus on the birth and enjoy this special moment as a family.

5.       Create a Labor Plan
Your doctor or midwife should give you details on where to go and whom to call once labor begins. But have you mapped out who will drive the expectant mother to the hospital? Prepare at least three options for hospital transportation, as labor can start at any time – day or night. Also, designate one person who will communicate with the rest of your family and friends about the status of the birth. Have this person make phone calls, send emails or use social media for you, so you can stay in the moment of labor and delivery.

Prepare for the future! Get valuable labor, delivery and parenting information through the hospitals of HCA West Florida. You can attend childbirth, breastfeeding, baby care, and other classes at St. Petersburg General Hospital, Medical Center of Trinity, and Brandon Regional Hospital. Call 1-877-442-2362 or find a class online.






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Minding the Health of Your Employees

As an employer, you want to provide your workforce with valuable health information, as well as occupational health services and support. That’s where we come in. As a comprehensive health and wellness delivery system, HCA’s Company Care offers employers one place to find information on injury prevention, emergency care and worker’s compensation treatment in West and Central Florida.

Keeping You Informed

We know that keeping up with OSHA and Florida workers’ compensation laws can be daunting. Let Company Care help you sort through the current laws and the inevitable changes – you’ll stay informed and current with relevant legal and employee health issues.

Company Care Services

We offer a variety of services to suit your needs. From physical therapy to drug testing, we provide employers with valuable information on all employee-related health and wellness initiatives. Services include:

  • Case management assistance
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Pre-employment physicals
  • Department of Transportation physicals
  • Job site analysis
  • Worksite wellness programs
  • Comprehensive drug testing
  • After-hours injury care
  • Independent medical exams
  • Safety programs
  • Return-to-work evaluations

About Us

Company Care Services are staffed by knowledgeable employees of HCA West Florida. HCA West Florida proudly serves the communities of West and Central Florida, and includes a comprehensive network of hospitals, outpatient surgery and diagnostic imaging facilities, as well as host of specialized health programs and services. HCA, our parent company, is the nation’s leading provider of healthcare services. HCA West Florida affiliated facilities include:

  • 15 hospitals
  • 16 ambulatory surgery centers
  • Numerous diagnostic imaging facilities and occupational health sites
  • An integrated regional lab
  • A consolidated service center

Let HCA's Company Care Services team help you gain access to valuable information that will benefit your entire workforce. Call our Consult-A-Nurse ® program at 877-4-HCA-DOCS (1-877-442-2362) to get started today. 


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Nutrition for a Healthy Heart

One of your best defenses against future heart disease is the food you fill your plate up with every day. What goes on in your kitchen can become your biggest help or hindrance when it comes to your health. Nutritious foods served in reasonable portions will increase your chances of a disease-free future, while meals filled with fats and cholesterol will potentially clog up arteries and cause painful and expensive complications as you age.

When planning a heart-healthy diet, you’ll need to start paying attention to the cholesterol levels of your foods. Your body does need some cholesterol for healthy functioning, but your liver typically creates all the cholesterol you need without adding any through your diet. Diets high in red meats or fried foods can lead to dangerous clogged arteries, often resulting in heart attacks or strokes.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a diet high in sodium can cause high blood pressure. The recommended sodium intake per day is 6 grams or less. Although high blood pressure may have no symptoms on its own, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure. Make sure that your blood pressure remains at a healthy number.

Increasing your fiber intake can encourage a healthy heart and decrease your risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. The best sources for fiber include brown rice, beans, nuts, potatoes, berries, vegetables, oatmeal, and whole grains.

Portion Size
Along with monitoring the types of food you eat every day, your heart’s health also requires that you pay attention to your portion sizes and calorie count. Obesity caused by overeating is one of the top causes of hypertension and heart disease. To fully protect your heart, select healthy whole foods at the grocery store, and eat everything in moderation.

The hospitals of HCA West Florida want to help you keep your heart as healthy as possible. To learn more, join us on February 15 at Central Florida Regional Hospital for a free class on heart smart nutrition. You can also call our Consult-A-Nurse service for general health-related questions or to get a physician referral.

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Top Tips for Coping with Arthritis

If you suffer from arthritis, you know how stiff and sore joints can be. When you're in too much pain, you may avoid activities that you used to love, which makes you feel like you're missing out on life. But it doesn't have to be this way! Consider these tips for coping with your condition:

Get daily exercise. You might think that exercise is too painful, but once you try it, you may see that it helps alleviate your discomfort. Try low-impact options, such as walking or swimming. You can also benefit from yoga and tai chi.

Try physical therapy. If you are really in pain, you may want to work with a physical therapist. This trained professional can teach you exercises to increase your flexibility and improve your range of motion. These exercises can also strengthen the muscles around your joints, which offer you more support.

Maintain a healthy weight. If you are carrying extra pounds, you're putting too much pressure on your joints. So lose weight if you need to. Cut your calories and try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Invest in good shoes. High heels may be fashionable, but they will only add to your pain. Try to wear shoes that offer support and provide a cushion when you walk.

Get enough sleep. If your body does not get adequate rest each night, it will feel even more sore and painful. Make sure you go to bed at about the same time each night, and shoot for a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

Talk to your doctor about medication. There is a wide range of medications available to you. Some over-the-counter pain relievers can work wonders! But if you need something stronger, your physician can provide a prescription.

Get support. If you are feeling depressed or isolated, look for a support group that can help. In this environment, you can share information and receive encouragement from people who are facing the same challenges that you are. Even if you don't join a group, be sure to spend time with family and friends, and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

Explore new treatments. If your pain is severe, there are many treatments that can help you feel better. Look into total and partial joint replacement, as well as repair and resurfacing. You may be surprised at how affective they are!

The Orthopedics departments at HCA West Florida hospitals can offer the medical expertise that you need. Our staff can help you explore all your treatment options. To find a physician, ask a question, or make an appointment, please use our free Consult-A-Nurse line at 1-877-442-2362.


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Do You Know the Signs of Depression?

If you are like most people, you have suffered bouts of feeling down and blue. That's a normal thing, and usually you can snap out of it. However, clinical depression is more than that. It is a medical condition that affects millions of Americans and may prevent them from living their lives fully. Understanding the signs of depression is important if you want to get help for yourself or for someone you love.

Depression can manifest in various ways, and the symptoms may differ based on gender or age. According to HelpGuide.org, men might react aggressively while women become sad or apathetic. Suicide in teens is a known reaction to depression and social pressures from peers. here are some common signs of depression:

  • Any thoughts or talk of suicide
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Chronic sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Hopelessness
  • Despair over problems
  • Sensation of being overwhelmed
  • Crying over feelings of sadness

Remember that depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a condition that requires medical treatment, just like diabetes or high blood pressure. If you feel that you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of depression, don't hesitate to get help. 

The hospitals of HCA West have compassionate and comprehensive behavioral health departments. Contact the facilities listed below to schedule a consultation and talk about the assistance that is available to you. 

Brandon Regional Hospital, Brandon, FL

Community Hospital, New Port Richey, FL

Doctors Hospital, Sarasota, FL (seniors only)

Largo Medical Center, Largo, FL

For more information on HCA West locations, to find a physician, or to schedule an appointment, use our 24-hour Consult-A-Nurse® line at 1-877-442-2362


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